"If Israel is really interested in a Palestinian partner for a two-state solution, they will release Marwan Barghouti," says Mahdi Abdel Hadi, director of the Palestinian Academic Society For the Study of International Affairs in Jerusalem.
Barghouti was arrested in 2002 and charged in 26 deaths and belonging to a terrorist organization. Two years later he was convicted for the death of four Israelis and a Greek monk, while the other 21 counts were dropped. Although no proof was brought showing his direct involvement in the killings, an Israeli court convicted him based on his leadership role of militias affiliated with his Fatah political party and sentenced him to five life terms.
The image of Barghouti in Israeli custody with handcuffed arms raised above his head dots the West Bank. At the Qalandiya checkpoint, where Palestinians frequently sit for hours waiting to cross into Israel, there is a huge portrait of him on the separation wall next to that of the late Palestinian icon Yasser Arafat – the guerrilla fighter turned president of the internationally backed Palestinian Authority (PA).